© Imperial College London.

 © Imperial College London.

Like so much of the Dartmoor National Park, St Olaves is blessed by abundant wildlife. Fallow deer are frequently to be seen grazing on the water meadow and in the adjacent fields, and there is a large badger set on the main path to the river. There are also signs of otter activity along the river bank, although we have yet to catch sight of one of these elusive creatures.

But what you notice first is the mass of birds in every corner of the garden. Bullfinches and wrens flitting within a foot or two of the windows, and the calls of ravens and buzzards soaring above you. Birds that we previously saw occasionally on holidays to the uplands of Wales or the Pennines we now see most days.

 Raven. Photo:  Minette Layne /Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Raven. Photo: Minette Layne/Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

The magisterial stars of the show are undoubtedly the resident pair of ravens, who seem to favour the towering Sitka Spruce at the junction of our leat system. We also have a grey wagtail and a heron visiting the small pond outside our kitchen window, tawny owls roosting in the nearby Coast Redwood, and treecreepers, nuthatches and woodpeckers climbing the trees above the terrace.  

Although we only moved here in mid-August, and therefore missed the frenzy of spring migration and the breeding season, we have already seen more than fifty different species of bird at St Olaves, including a notable influx of new species in the harsh weather at the start of March. Our big hope is that in the spring we may see migratory redstarts, flycatchers and warblers, and that the dipper and kingfisher we have seen fleetingly on the river may prove less elusive.

Below is a list of birds seen since August 2017 – those marked * are the most common {or (*) for abundant summer visitors}.

  1. Blackbird*
  2. Blackcap
  3. Blue Tit*
  4. Bullfinch*
  5. Buzzard*
  6. Carrion Crow*
  7. Chaffinch*
  8. Chiffchaff (*)
  9. Coal Tit*
  10. Collared Dove*
  11. Dipper
  12. Dunnock*
  13. Fieldfare
  14. Goldcrest*
  15. Goldfinch
  16. Goshawk
  17. Great Spotted Woodpecker*
  18. Great Tit*
  19. Greenfinch
  20. Green Woodpecker
  21. Grey Wagtail
  22. Heron*
  23. Herring Gull
  24. House Martin(*)
  25. House Sparrow*
  26. Jackdaw*
  27. Jay*
  28. Kingfisher
  29. Lapwing
  30. Lesser Redpoll
  31. Lesser Spotted Woodpecker
  32. Linnet
  33. Long-tailed Tit
  34. Magpie*
  35. Mallard
  36. Merlin
  37. Mistle Thrush
  38. Nutchatch*
  39. Peregrine Falcon
  40. Pheasant*
  41. Pied Wagtail
  42. Raven
  43. Robin*
  44. Rook*
  45. Siskin*
  46. Song Thrush*
  47. Starling
  48. Swallow(*)
  49. Tawny Owl*
  50. Treecreeper*
  51. Whitethroat
  52. Willow Tit
  53. Woodcock
  54. Wood Pigeon*
  55. Wren*